UCAS: Applying to start university in 2021? Here’s what you need to know

Education, UCAS

21st August 2020

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It might be easy to lose track of time in this most unusual moment, but applications for university in 2021 are just around the corner. UCAS’ application date for 2021 entry is October 15th, meaning you’ve only got a few weeks left to get everything sorted if you’re looking to apply to Oxford, Cambridge or most medicine, veterinary medicine, veterinary science and dentistry courses for universities across the UK.

But what do you need to know – and what should you watch out for?

Who should apply on October 15th, 2020?

Anyone who intends to study at an Oxbridge University (i.e. Oxford or Cambridge) will need to make their UCAS application by 6pm (18:00) on October 15th, 2020.

In addition, anyone who is hoping to study medicine, veterinary medicine, veterinary science and dentistry – regardless of which UK university – will need to apply by the same date.

Applications for all other courses and universities for 2021 entry will need to be made by January 15th 2021.

Why is the deadline so soon – and what happens if I miss it?

As someone about to start university, you should start getting used to deadlines – and forget about wasting your time questioning them and why they are so soon (trust us!)

Put simply, there are hundreds of thousands of applicants – 500,340 applicants held a firm offer for an immediate start in 2020, an increase of 6,000 from the 494,530 in 2019 – and it takes universities a long time to process them.

Associated aspects like funding arrangements for each intake depend on the number of applications, so it makes sense that universities would want to have these properly sorted out well in advance of a course starting.

If you’ve missed the deadline, getting your application approved will not be impossible – but your chance of getting a place will be lower, particularly for the more popular courses and universities.

But if you have missed a deadline, contact the university first to see if there are still spots available before you go to the trouble of applying.

What do I need to do?

The deadline might be just under two months away (at the time of writing) but you still need to get snappy; as with anything at university, it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared.

The first step of course is to consider the courses you want to study. Once you’ve made your choices, you can make your UCAS application and track it here.

What do I need and how much will it cost?

The application will ask you to fill in all your personal details – including information about your personal history and qualifications – as well as which courses you want to study.

Besides filling out your application details, you’ll also need an outstanding personal statement which differentiates your application from the thousands of others.

UCAS personal statement must be shorter than 4,000 characters – a tougher ask than you might think at first glance – while touching upon your experience, ambition and what you’ll bring to your chosen course.

Then there’s the application fee, which starts at £20 for normal applications, £26 for multiple courses or late applications.

How has coronavirus changed the university experience?

One final question – and one which we have received regularly in recent months – is how the coronavirus pandemic has changed the application process.

As it stands, the above dates remain valid, with universities and UCAS trying their best to keep things as normal as possible despite the ongoing uncertainty.

Assume that the existing dates will not be changed, even in the event of a second or third wave of the pandemic. And if you’re still uncertain, read our specific guide on studying during the pandemic.